Engagement is an emotional business

Anyone wanting to foster an online community will grapple with the idea of engagement. Engagement is the key to successful online learning though conversational activities. There is a link between the degree of engagement (in terms of quantity and quality) and the depth of reflection and co-construction that participants can reach.

Many thanks to the ELM magazine editors for the interview published in this month’s issue of the magazine! Click here

My initial plan was to write an article on the topic of “engagement” as the fourth instalment of this blog on Conversation as an Ecology of Learning. Then, I was contacted by the ELM Magazine (European Lifelong Learning Magazine) for an interview on the topic! I will therefore refer the reader to this article, published in this month’s issue : Read the ELM Interview.

In adult education and in education in general, people love to talk about learner engagement. How to engage more adults in learning? What are the best strategies for successful learner engagement?

Heini Huhtinen, Editor-in-chief of Elm Magazine (2022).

The interview focuses on these elements of preparedness and what facilitators/moderators can do to support engagement. My study has shown the importance of preparedness and emotional wellbeing for learners to be ready to engage. For participants to benefit from the potential for transformation that is offered by the type of professional learning and development PLD[i] my work is centered on, they must engage in interactions.  

Before going to the ELM article, I suggest a clarification on the concept as it appears in my work.

Engagement is multidimensional

The concept of engagement is a multidimensional construct involving different components. These components, include behavioural, cognitive, and emotional dimensions.

  • Behavioral: sustaining engagement, not dropping out.
  • Emotional: encompassing the quality of relations to peers and teachers, positive or negative reactions to tasks and the environment.
  • Cognitive: willingness and ability to do the tasks.

Engagement, once established, builds on itself! Thus, nurturing initial engagement is key.
The three dimensions of engagement intersect: for example our emotional engagement will shape our cognitive engagement with ideas and thought expressed.
Engagement can vary in time as well: variations in intensity, stability and duration point to potential for evolution regarding engagement and learning for each individual participant

The concept of engagement offers a rich soil with lots of potential for exploration into the topic of learning in online communities

In my next article I will delve into the factors that shape participants’ engagement in the OPLC as a motivated activity; in other words: factors of motivation describing how the ability to meet participants’ needs, with the support of effective moderator strategies, determines the extent to which participants become and remain active in the online conversation in the OPLC.

[i] In section #1 Ethos and value-base


Azevedo, R. (2015). Defining and measuring engagement and learning in science: Conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and analytical issues. Educational Psychologist, 50(1), 84-94.

Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School Engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59–109.

Huttinen, H. (2022, March 18). Pascale Mompoint-Gaillard: Engagement is an emotional business. ELM Magazine. https://elmmagazine.eu/engaging-and-re-engaging/engagement-is-an-emotional-business/.

Järvelä, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2014). Designing for learning: Interest, motivation, and engagement. In K. R. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 668-685).

Mompoint-Gaillard, P. (2021). Conversation as an Ecology of learning. An analysis of asynchronous discussions within an online professional community working to develop a democratic practice in education. (PhD PhD dissertation), University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Ryle, A., & Cumming, K. (2007). Reflections on engagement in online learning communities. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 3(3), 35-46.

Webster, M. (2015). Online continuing professional development: Key factors for successful engagement. Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education,, 17(1), 68.

Zhu, E. (2006). Interaction and cognitive engagement: An analysis of four asynchronous online discussions. Instructional Science, 34(6), 451-480.

Illustration: ©Laureen Golden 2022

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